Angelo Chol tries to block a shot by Stanford's Josh Huestis in the first half. Coach Sean Miller praised Chol for playing hard off the bench.


The loudest ovation of Wednesday night's young game came when Angelo Chol checked in early in the first half.

The roar was eclipsed when the sophomore forward made a tip-in moments later.

Sean Miller can hear the fans' enthusiasm.

"I know why they love him," he said.

For the same reason the coach does.

Following the Arizona Wildcats' 73-66 win against Stanford at McKale Center, Miller practically penned a love letter to the little-used Chol who, with one forward hurt and another in foul trouble, posted perhaps the best game of his college life.

In a career-high 24 minutes, the left-hander grabbed a career-best eight rebounds and scored six points.

"It always sounds good: 'Be ready, Chol, be ready; you're going to get your opportunity, be ready,'" Miller said. "And I'd say about two out of 10 can be ready for that opportunity.

"The other eight, they listen to someone. They quit working hard. They give up on themselves.

"And then when that opportunity presents itself, they can't perform.

"The thing that makes Angelo so special is, he's the same every day."

Miller's enthusiasm was shared by Chol's teammates.

"I'm one of the guys on the team that really cheers Chol on, though we all do," guard Mark Lyons said. "I got a lot of faith in him; I know when he gets in the game, he could produce."

Said forward Solomon Hill: "He wasn't the type to mope about his playing minutes and the situation he was in. He came out and played hard. He came out like he was the starter."

Chol's playing time came as a result of the Wildcats' three freshmen big men being sidelined for distinct reasons.

Grant Jerrett didn't play because of a stress fracture in his foot, Brandon Ashley played only 13 minutes before fouling out. Center Kaleb Tarczewski also played 13 minutes, a bad fit against the smaller, quicker Cardinal team.

"I was a little bit tired in the beginning, because I wasn't used to the (running)," Chol joked. "After a while, I got into the rhythm."

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said Chol "didn't surprise us," but played well.

"We played against him last year and we know what he can do," Dawkins said. "He's active around the ball and he's a very physical ballplayer.

"He played well tonight, but we knew he was capable of that. We needed to do a better job against him."

It hasn't been easy this season for Chol, who is from Sudan by way of San Diego.

From the UA's Christmas Day game against San Diego State until Wednesday, Chol failed to play more than eight minutes in any game.

Three times - in close contests against Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA - he didn't play at all.

During that stretch, he had seven total rebounds - one fewer than he had Wednesday night alone.

Until he made a free throw Jan. 26 against USC, Chol had gone one month and three days without scoring. He's scored more in the past two weeks than he did in all of December and the rest of January combined.

"It's been frustrating and stuff," he said. "But I didn't get down on myself. I kept going through the process."

Chol earned future playing time Wednesday, and the threat of Miller inserting him for slacking freshmen gained added credence.

"Boy, it's easy to trust Angelo Chol when you watch him do what he did," Miller said. "I think that gives us added depth. 'You don't wanna play hard? No problem. You're out.'

"That's how you get a team playing hard and playing consistently. They know that no one's bluffing here."

The coach beamed when talking about Chol's game.

"When he doesn't play," Miller said, "I hate looking at him. Because he's such a great kid."

Miller might not have to worry about that for a while.